I was a die-hard Seamless/Grubhub user, but after switching to Uber Eats for a week I'm never looking back
- As the online food delivery market booms, delivery services are in an all-out war for users.
- I've been a customer of Seamless (owned by Grubhub) for years, but I tried Uber Eats for a week to put my loyalty to the test.
- The services are nearly identical, but Uber Eats' is more transparent about delivery fees and, in my experience, was much faster.
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The meal delivery market is booming, with US customers spending almost $400 million monthly on delivery orders.
For customers, the platforms for food delivery can seem nearly identical - but those platforms are in heated competition to win over users. Grubhub has controlled roughly 30 percent of the market over the past three years, according to Second Measure, while Uber Eats and DoorDash are both on the rise.
As someone who's bad at cooking and time management, I order delivery pretty often. For years, my go-to delivery app has been Seamless, which is owned by Grubhub and is the most-used app in New York City, where I live.
I decided to put Seamless/Grubhub to the test by downloading Uber Eats, the second-most-used delivery app in my city, and using it for a week (I didn't download DoorDash because it's disproportionately small in New York, and also because the company was pocketing delivery workers' tips until recently).
For the most part, the two apps in my comparison offered delivery from the same set of restaurants in my neighborhood, so the difference between the two seemed negligible - but I soon started to notice contrasts between the apps' user interface and the speed of my deliveries.
I was struck by the lengths both apps would go to in order to grab my attention. Seamless took to sending me a near-nightly email, and Uber Eats sends notifications alerting me to specific deals - while I like being fought over as much as the next person, it started to feel overwhelming.
It was a close call, but Uber Eats comes out on top as my pick for best meal delivery app. That decision ultimately came down to two factors: cost transparency and delivery speed. Here's my reasoning.
My first priority when using delivery apps is to find the cheapest deal possible. Both Grubhub and Uber Eats make it possible to sort by price ranging from "$" to "$$$$$" — in this regard, the apps are on even footing.
However, determining the full cost of an order is less consistent. One thing I liked about Uber Eats that every restaurant listing includes the cost of delivery right below the title.
By contrast, Seamless/Grubhub doesn't show the cost of delivery on restaurant listings.
Instead, Seamless/Grubhub waits until you've selected menu items and reached the checkout to disclose the delivery price, making it hard to predict the total cost of a meal.
Uber Eats even offers itemized lists of restaurants sorted by the cost of delivery, making it easy to seek out a cost-effective option without clicking through a menu first.
Once your order is on the way, Uber Eats lets you track its location, just like an Uber rideshare. Seamless/Grubhub, which often outsources delivery to restaurant staff, doesn't always offer this feature.
My first order from Uber Eats, from a nearby Thai restaurant, actually arrived a bit earlier than expected.
The drunken noodles I ordered were still hot, and utensils were included. Five stars.
In my experience, Uber Eats orders were typically delivered much faster than Seamless/Grubhub. However, Uber Eats repeatedly asked me if I wouldn't mind slower delivery for $0.50 off my order — this never seemed like a good enough deal for me to take.
On one occasion, my Uber Eats order was delayed, and I was shown this message. By contrast, I had come to expect frequent delays as a given part of using Seamless/Grubhub.
Once I was using both apps, I started to notice how fiercely the platforms were trying to grab my attention. At times, it became a bit unnerving.
Ultimately, Uber Eats' cost transparency and quick delivery are enough to make it my favorite meal delivery app, although the competition was tight.
But one thing is keeping me from deleting Seamless/Grubhub for now — it offers delivery from my favorite restaurant, Taco Bell, through an exclusive partnership while Uber Eats does not.
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